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Monday, November 18, 2013

Doctor Who: A 50th Anniversary Primer

Happy Monday, All! 

Today begins my week long countdown to the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special "The Day of the Doctor" which will premier this Saturday, November 23, 2013 on the BBC and BBC America. To celebrate this milestone, I will be dedicating a daily post every day this week leading up to the premier of the special. Hey! That's what you get with a blog which gets its title from a line in the show.

[Image Source:]

Today's post is a bit of a primer for those who have no clue what Doctor Who is all about. 


The Versions of the TARDIS
[Image Source: TheDoctorWhoSite]
Premiering on November 23, 1963, Doctor Who started out as a British children's Saturday educational show in which a cranky old man called The Doctor, his granddaughter, and her two teachers travel through time and space learning about history and science in a ship called a TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions In Space), which, as a running joke has the ability to change its appearance but is permanently stuck as a 1960's blue police call box. (An Adventure in Space and Time, a dramatized account of the show's inception will on November 21, 2103.)

Versions of the Doctor
[Image Source:]
Not long after, it would be revealed that the Doctor is a member of an alien race called the Time Lords and had the ability to regenerate his body (which had the side effect of creating the same man with a new face and a new personality) as a way to cheat death. This device would allowed the show to continue with a new lead actor and came in handy as William Hartnell, the first actor to portray the titular lead, left the show due to his failing health. To date eleven actors have played the coveted role with a 12th—Peter Capaldi—set to take up mantel beginning with the 2103 Christmas Special [1][2]. 

The show's original run aired for 26 season until December 1989 and quickly became a cult classic, especially in the United State when the show began to air on PBS. In that time, the show would go through seven Doctors and inspire writers for other, more famous shows like Star Trek as well as geeks and scientist alike. There was just something about a low budget show about an alien who travelled with a rotating cast of companions saving the universe from evil. 

The show would get a TV movie and a new Doctor in 1996.  Produced as a partnership between the BBC and Fox, it would serve as a failed pilot to revive the show in an American setting. The show would then continue on in spin-off media like audio-plays, comic books, and novels creating a sort of apocrypha which helped fill the void in many-a-nerds' double hearts.

Then in 2005, the BBC would revive the series. The show got a bigger budget and sleeker storytelling. Since then three new Doctors have helped user the show (both classic run and revived series) into a new era with a whole new generation of fans. It is now a world-wide phenomenon with spin-offs, merchandising, and one of the nerdiest, most obsessed followings around.

The 50th Anniversary Episode

The 50th Anniversary episode titled "The Day of The Doctor" will air this Saturday and will star eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith and his companion Clara Oswald played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. The episode will also feature the return of tenth Doctor David Tennent and companion Rose Tyler played by Billie Piper. The sorry will revolve around the events of the Last Great Time War. A previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor (played by John Hurt) which was revealed in last minutes of the Series Seven season finale will play a large role.

Playing Catch-up

Want to catch-up on all the fun but don't have the time to watch all 33 seasons, 239 serials, 798 episodes? (You can't, by the way, even if you wanted to do so. Due to the BBC's "junking policy" in the 60s and 70s, there are 97 missing episodes.) Netflix has seasons one through six available while season seven is now out on DVD and Bluray. BBC America will also air most of these episodes leading up to the Saturday's Premier. Set your DVRs!

Here is my list of the key episodes from the revived series that I think you should watch if you don't have the days off from work to watch all 102 episodes. By the way, the new seasons are referred to as "series".

* - Denotes episodes you can cut out from my long list but I include here because they are great episodes and I feel like they will enhance your experience and/or give you a better understanding of the story/characters/show history. 

Bold - denotes the episodes to watch for a super-short, nitty-gritty marathon

  • Series 1 - Features the 9th Doctor and Begins the Revived Series
    • Episode 01 - "Rose"
    • Episode 02 - "End of the World"*
    • Episode 06 - "Dalek"
    • Episode 12 - "Bad Wolf"
    • Episode 13 - "The Parting of the Ways"
  • Series 2 - Features the beginning the 10th Doctor's tenure
    • X-Mas 2005 - "The Christmas Invasion"
    • Episode 03 - "School Reunion"
    • Episode 04 - "Girl in the Fireplace"*
    • Episode 12 - "Army of Ghosts
    • Episode 13 - "Doomsday"
  • Series 3
    • X-Mas 2006 - "The Runaway Bride"
    • Episode 01 - "Smith and Jones"
    • Episode 02 - "The Shakespeare Code
    • Episode 08 - "Human Nature"*
    • Episode 09 - "The Family of Blood"*
    • Episode 10 - "Blink"* (I don't recommend skipping this one, though.)
    • Episode 11 - "Utopia"
    • Episode 12 - "The Sound of Drums"
    • Episode 13 - "Last of the Time Lords"
  • Series 4
    • Episode 01 - "Partners in Crime"
    • Episode 09 - "Silence in the Library"*
    • Episode 10 - "Forest of the Dead"*
    • Episode 12 - "The Stolen Earth"
    • Episode 13 - "Journey's End"
  • Series 4B - The Specials
    • Episode 17 & 18 - "The End of Time, Parts 1 & 2"
  • Series 5 - The 11th Doctor takes over. 
    • Episode 01 - "The Eleventh Hour"
    • Episode 04 - "The Time of Angels"
    • Episode 05 - "Flesh and Stone"
    • Episode 12 - "The Pandorica Opens"
    • Epsidoe 13 - "The Big Bang"
  • Series 6
    • Episode 03 - "The Doctor's Wife"
    • Episode 07 - "A Good Man Goes to War"
  • Series 7
    • Episode 01 - "Asylum of the Dalek"
    • Episode 05 - "The Angels Take Manhatten"
    • XMas 2012 - "The Snowmen"
    • Episode 06 - "The Bells of Saint John"
    • Episode 10 - "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"*
    • Episode 11 - "The Crimson Horror"*
    • Episode 13 - "The Name of the Doctor"
    • YouTube Mini Episode - "The Night of the Doctor"